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..Taro Japanese restaurant in London N3..a review..

Updated: May 13, 2022


I live in North London, so over the years I have seen a number of Japanese restaurants come and go. Taro has been around for a long time, having operated its main, Central London outlet in Brewer St, Soho since the turn of the century. I reviewed Taro, Soho along with some other Soho based Japanese restaurants some time ago. (See my "Six Japanese Restaurants in London - a review. I've added a postscript to that blog to show you how they have fared over the 2020/21 lockdown.) Taro has a second outlet in Balham and a takeaway in Cannon Street in the City. More recently Taro has added a new dine in/take out location to its portfolio in Finchley, North London. The site is an interesting one because it has been a Japanese restaurant (under a few different names and ownerships) for as long as I can remember. It was called "Daruma" for many years but the general state of the place was in long term decline and it closed down a couple of years ago after a health and safety issue.


Now, credit to Taro for taking on the challenge of reopening the site under their own brand.

The exterior has been spruced up a little and it certainly looks a lot better than during the Daruma days. Taro has positioned some tables and chairs outside - I think this is more a matter of hope than expectation as the pavement is quite narrow and the road is always quite busy with traffic. Three of us visited Taro at 8.30pm on a Sunday evening so perhaps it wasn't surprising that we were the only diners there during our short stay. That said, there was a constant traffic of Deliveroo drivers and other pick ups in and out of the place. The interior was nicely done and certainly an improvement over Daruma - lots of pine, well lit and clean - a decent enough start. The cooks and the table staff were all dressed in traditional Japanese garb which was a nice touch. The table service was attentive, polite and not at all pushy, even though we took a little more time than usual to muse over the menu.

The menu itself was what you would expect to find in a low/mid budget Japanese restaurant: noodles, sashimi donburi, sushi sets etc etc.


What did we eat?

We ordered the following:

  • a bowl of Tonkotsu ramen

  • a Salmon Teriyaki donburi

  • an Ebi bento box

  • fried chicken Gyoza "pot stickers" to share



The food took around 10 minutes to arrive, the gyoza, the ramen and the ebi bento first and the salmon teriyaki a couple of minutes later.


How did the food score?

  • Tonkotsu ramen 6/10

The ramen broth (above) arrived hot but was a little thin to start with. This is a tonkotsu dish so the broth should be rich and almost a meal in itself. The noodles were thin and a little droopy and lacked the keynote "bite" of a good ramen noodle. The fillings were as one would expect for a tonkotsu ramen - a slice of rolled pork, half a boiled egg, some beansprouts, spring onion and some pickled ginger. The pork was as tasty as you might expect. The boiled egg was....well, a boiled egg - a pukka ramen egg really should be steep in a soy marinade to colour the egg white brown. They should also be "hanjuku" - semi-soft with the yoke still oozy. Anyway, back to the dish - the broth became tastier towards the bottom of the bowl which might imply that it was made up from a concentrate.


Conclusion: I've tasted better tonkotsu ramen but I've also tasted worse. Satisfactory.

  • Salmon Teriyaki Donburi 5/10

This dish (right) was quite substantial and my co-diner struggled to finish it - there was a lot of rice. The salmon was rather dry and looked a little anaemic. The teriyaki sauce dressing was much too sweet. Rather than being cooked in the teriyaki sauce, the salmon appeared to have simply been brushed with teriyaki sauce post frying, so it lacked any real teriyaki flavour. The rice was fresh but appeared a little bit mashed.


Conclusion: Fine if you really have a gaping hole to fill in your stomach but really not a satisfying eating experience. Teriyaki salmon can be much better than this.


  • Ebi Bento box 7/10

This dish was the best of the bunch, albeit the most expensive. The 4 king prawn "ebi furai" were good enough - not fresh out of the frying pan but fresh enough. The two "nigiri" sushi were freshly made and the two inside out "uramaki" rolls were generously filled. The slices of salmon sashimi were fresh and of good quality, if a little on the thin side. The rest of the dish didn't contain any surprises - a few edamame, a little pile of (rather dehydrated) beansprouts, some slices of cucumber and some shredded carrot (whereas a stickler would insist on shredded daikon, the carrot substitute was fine by me.). The bento box was complimented with a bowl of miso soup. We all took a little taste and concluded that it might contain just a little dashi stock along with miso and hot water.


Conclusion: If you like ebi furai and you like salmon sashimi, you would walk away satisfied after this dish.

  • Fried Gyoza pot stickers 5/10

Of the four dishes we tried, this was the biggest disappointment. While it might be too much to expect freshly made gyoza at this price point, there are both good and bad frozen gyoza and these were at the poorer end of the scale. The filling, (what there was of it,) was soggy and none of us could determine what the contents might actually consist of - but it was difficult to estabish that it was chicken. That said, the gyoza arrived hot and nicely fried.


Conclusion: The cook did the best he/she could with some rather mediocre "chicken" gyoza.


The bill:


Chicken gyoza (5 pieces) £ 4.90


Tonkotsu ramen £10.90


Salmon teriyaki donburi £11.90


Ebi bento £14.90


Total £43.50


Summary: To my mind, Taro Finchley seems to be following the trend of prioritising its delivery trade over in-house dining. Those chairs set up outside on the pavement might well be meant to seat waiting pick ups rather than anyone wanting to eat al fresco. The food we ate was acceptable but nothing more than acceptable. But that probably misses the point, doesn't it? Most diners ordering a delivery online aren't expecting to be blown away - for the most part, they are expecting, well....acceptable, filling food...and if they want to order a Japanese delivery, that is what they will get from Taro Finchley.


Food: ★★☆☆☆ Ambience: ★★☆☆☆ Value for Money: ★★★☆☆


You can find Taro Finchley Central at 356 Regents Park Rd, London N3 2LJ. Reservations via quandoo.co.uk and delivery via deliveroo.co.uk


(PS: the restaurants I review are unaware that I am reviewing their fare and service. I pay for what I eat. My opinions are honest and unbiased....)

 

Why not make it yourself?


We all love to dine out. But don't forget you can make Japanese food at home which will not only taste as good or better than what you eat out (or order in) and for a fraction of the cost too! I've listed two recipes below for items I ordered during my review. Just follow the links to the written recipes and Youtube tutorials.


Recipe idea #1: Like many ramen shops outside of Japan, Taro's ramen eggs were not prepared in the "old school" way befitting this dish. If you want to discover how to make a pukka "hanjuku" egg yourself, you need look no further than my recipe Hanjuku Egg.

If you just want to see the Youbtube tutorial, you can find that by clicking Hanjuku egg. Hanjuku in Japanese means "semi-ripe" or in the case of an egg, semi-soft. But you don't have to do your eggs hanjuku (semi-soft), just boil the egg for the full 6 minutes, if you prefer a harder boiled version! Either way, once you steeped your boiled eggs in their soy marinade, they'll have the proper brown colouration and you'll earn some serious cooking cred points from friends and family!

 

Recipe idea #2: One taste of Taro's Salmon Teriyaki donburi and my co-diner shook his head and said, "It would be so easy to get this dish so much better." He was 100% correct. A Teriyaki Salmon donburi only needs to things for success - a good teriyaki sauce and some good salmon fillets. If you tick both of those boxes, you can prepare your own 5-star Teriyaki Salmon donburi in less than 30 minutes in your own kitchen! Just click on Salmon Teriyaki Donburi to find the Youtube tutorial. If you just want to see the written recipe, click Salmon Teriyaki Donburi recipe. Once you've tried this dish out, you might find it difficult to eat salmon any other way!


About the reviewer.


Hi, I'm Kurumi, a cooking writer and blogger. I'm Japanese but I have lived in London for the last

30 thirty years. Back in the days before the internet (and Youtube), I was a food writer. My first book published in English was called Japanese Cooking for Two which I wrote in 1994. It has become the 9th best selling Japanese cookbook ever… yaaay!

My other books were ‘The Noodle Cookbook”, “The Soy for Health Cookbook” and “Healthy Noodles.” I also published a book in Japanese “English Home Cooking”. Then I had children and my life changed!

By the time my children had grown up, the world had changed quite a lot too! Internet, Youtube, Insta etc. So, these days, instead of books, I publish recipe and articles on my website and on my Youtube channel. I hope you'll check out my recipes - they are all tried and tested (some more times than I care to mention!) until I think you will get them right first time when you make them and enjoy eating them.


If you’d like to read more about me or my books, then follow the link here:


https://www.kurumicooks.co.uk/about


Happy eating! Kurumi XXXX.

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